Want to Learn SharePoint? Let Me Mentor You!

I love learning and sharing what I learn. I love this so much, I started a SharePoint university, I’ve written 20 books on SharePoint, recorded close to 150 hours of lectures, and I’ve conducted countless training sessions when I’m working for consulting clients.

Now I want to turn my attention to you.

What, Me Personally?

Yes, you personally. You see, since USPJ Academy slowed down its operations last year, I’ve found myself with more time and the same eagerness to keep sharing what I’ve learned over thousands of hours of SharePoint exploration.

I decided to start working with a few select people who were looking to learn more about SharePoint but had a hard time finding the best resources, the funding from employers, or how to learn in the most efficient way. I work individually with each these people to guide them towards their goals.

We work through email communication and real-time online meetings, usually around an hour at a time, but frequently longer too. I follow their progress closely, assign homework and tasks they perform, and assist them in finding the material they need.

So far, I’m working regularly with three students, and it’s been a great experience. After trying this for just over a month, I realize I have some more capacity. So, starting in February, I can take on a couple of more students.

How It Works

You have unique goals, needs, backgrounds, and expectations. As such, how and what you learn is up to you and depends on your needs.

Initially, we meet to discuss your learning goals and ambitions. This includes determining both your short-term and long-term goals, and what you need to reach these goals.

Then, we start outlining the first sessions towards that goal. What these sessions will be depends on you. So far, my existing students have worked with motivation and brand-building, object-oriented programming, SharePoint Designer workflows, some InfoPath, and some other random topics too. Some of them want to start new careers while others want to move their existing career forward or broaden their scope.

What would you need to learn to achieve the goals you want?

Hang On, This Must Be Expensive

I don’t work for free, and neither do you. I charge for the sessions we spend together, US$200 per session. I don’t charge you anything else.

How many sessions we have depends on your needs, goals, and how quickly you learn. It may be a once-a-month session over six months or it may be a session once a week for a year.

You don’t have to commit long-term either. You book the sessions you want, when you want them. You can stop any time and you never commit to anything to me.

Great, I Want In!

Hold on just a second.

You see, without doing any actual promotion, I’ve already gotten a lot of requests and just in the first couple of weeks, I got the first three students. This means there will likely be far more requests than I can handle, so I need to make sure the students I get are serious.

First of all, you should expect to have no less frequent sessions that once a month. This ensures we get continuity. You can still quit at any time, though, but as long as you work with me, once a month is the minimum frequency that works.

Second, you should consider this as a career advancement, not just a casual past-time. I will ask you about your goals, your current experience, and other questions to help both you and me make sure we’re not wasting each others’ time. If you’re just starting out, that’s fine, and if you’re an experienced developer looking to advance your understanding, that’s fine too. If you just want me to help you build a web part, then ask someone else.

Next, make sure you understand what I do so you know what I can teach. I do SharePoint development and solution architecture, and although I’m comfortable with a much wider range of tasks, these are my strong areas.

I won’t, for example, take on a SharePoint administrator student, simply because I wouldn’t be able to give you the best training you can possibly get.

Note: If you need to review what the various disciplines are, check out my article on SharePoint professional disciplines.


Finally, I will expect you to be fluent in English, both written and spoken. We will spend considerable time communicating, and it’s problematic if we struggle to understand each other.

More Questions?

I’ve added a page on my Professional Services page that can answer at least some of the questions you may have.

On that page, you can also book both a free information meeting to evaluate your needs and your sessions when you decide to get started.

If you want to inquire about studying with me, be prepared to answer questions about your goals, current knowledge, and other things before I will accept a free information meeting with you.

In fact, a good way to convince me you’re serious is to tell me a bit about yourself when you book the meeting. I don’t need your life story, I need to know where you want to go, how quickly you want to get there, and where you are now.


Sounds like a great plan? Well, don’t hesitate and get in touch so we can start working.


Current Availability

I’ll update this section on a regular basis with the availability so you know whether I can help you out.

February 1, 2013: Currently,  I have capacity for 2-3 more students.

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SharePoint Version Hype – Just Say No

SPTechWeb reported that 40% of companies say they are still using SharePoint versions that predate SharePoint 2010. This number, retrieved from a survey during the 2013 SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas, came from asking 125 SharePoint professionals, so it’s not just left-behind, back-alley organizations that had their say.

Are you surprised to hear that so many use older versions of SharePoint? I’m not.

Just Say No!

If, like my wife, you don’t really read my blog, you may not know that this attitude makes perfect business sense. After all, if you look at the average Twitter feed from the SharePoint community, it’s all about SharePoint 2013 now. SharePoint 2007 is barely mentioned, and I haven’t heard or seen anything about SharePoint 2003 for a very, very long time.

So why does it make business sense to stick with the older versions? Well, I’ve previously argued that with SharePoint, versions do not really matter. Your business problems do not change when Microsoft decides to push the Release button for the next SharePoint version. In fact, upgrading to a new version means you will get new problems in addition to the ones you already have. It’s not just a good idea to stick to what you already do, it’s a bad idea to try to introduce new problems, interfaces, and ways of performing tasks for employees.

For most employees, you see, SharePoint is about as interesting as the chemical composition of asphalt. It’s just something they use to get their jobs done. When you change how that tool works, it’s a burden on them because they now need to learn a new way of doing what they’ve been doing for years. That burden translates into cost for the organization and unless there are new problems that only a newer version can solve then upgrading isn’t really desirable.

But What About Recruitment?

You may be concerned that you won’t be able to find skilled people that know old versions of SharePoint to maintain and develop your business solutions.

Here’s the thing… You don’t have to and you shouldn’t. Skilled SharePoint professionals know SharePoint, regardless of version. Think about it, would you hire a driver that knew how to drive one model car only? Would you hire a baker that could only work with yeast of a certain brand? How about a carpenter that only knew how to drive nails into the wall with a specific brand hammer? On a more technical level, would you hire a programmer that knew how to work in C# 2.0 only?

Why would you hire a SharePoint professional who knew how to work with one version of SharePoint only?

These people are tool users. They don’t know their tasks without those tools to support them, and down that path lies madness. What happens if you do need to upgrade for some reason? For someone who knows one version only, their knowledge will be far less valuable. You’ll be stuck having to retrain them on a new version, only to have the same dance again in three years.

Support Expires!

True. At some point, the lifecycle of any software program or platform comes to an end when the authors decide they can no longer support the solution. You would definitely need to upgrade then, right?

Wrong. First of all, software that has been around for years is already far more stable than new versions and thus require far less support. SharePoint 2007 has had far longer to iron out any wrinkles, discover any stability issues, and have any security issues exploited than SharePoint 2010. The chance of major and critical issues decrease with age.

As for support in the form of calling Microsoft Professional Services to get them to look at your farm, well, if they won’t pick up, just call someone else. There are, according to Microsoft, hundreds of thousands of SharePoint professionals that would be glad to take your support money.

Just make sure you call those that actually know SharePoint and not just the latest or even a specific version.


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SharePoint Developers, What’s Your Users’ Efficiency?

I’ve made it a goal of mine to get SharePoint developers to think more about the user experience of their solutions. By this, I mean not just the user interface, but the way the solutions behave, ‘feel’, and perform. And by performance, I don’t necessarily mean technical performance. Read on and I’ll explain what I mean.

The following is an excerpt from the SPInvoice Explained issue of USP Journal.

Pretty Please

As SharePoint solution developers, at least at the stage you should be if you’ve read this far in the issue, we should allow ourselves to focus more on the user experience of our solutions.

In Chapter 3, I argued that we should endeavor to pull our users into our applications more like modern platforms do. However, that kind of user experience is just one aspect of making our users efficient.

Keep in mind that our value as developers is not just in churning out code. The value we represent to our clients, employers, or users is in our ability to turn our experience and knowledge into efficiency or opportunity for users. To accomplish this, we should focus in much greater extent on how our solutions can be made as efficient as possible.

I’m not talking here about code performance. In the grand scheme of things, the performance of our solutions is measured in money and time saved or earned. We can have the fastest rendering of a screen in the known universe, but if our users still can’t do their jobs faster, more accurate, or better, then saving CPU cycles is pointless.

Note: Keep in mind that I am talking about SharePoint development, or even business application development.

When talking to developers, I often find that the focus on great code is on things like readability, testability, the efficiency of performing some computation, the reduced resource use, and so on. We are focused on technical performance more than we are on user performance.

Another factor in user efficiency is how easy a solution is to learn. For any task, if you train long enough, you can increase your performance by an order of magnitude, but will the investment in training ever pay off? Better yet, can we make our solutions so easy to use that our users will be productive while they are learning?

Think about how Angry Birds makes easy a rather complex idea of combining physics, gravity, impact velocity, angles of attack, and turn it into an experience that can be understood within a couple of minutes. You may need a long time to perfect it, but you grasp enough to become entertained quickly.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could have user experiences and interfaces that were as easy to learn as a modern game?

Think also about the fact that the default user experience in SharePoint is the lowest common denominator for a range of tasks the user must perform. For its purpose, to be a single type of interface for any task, it works great, but it’s far from efficient and not very intuitive.

As developers, we should be thinking about how we can make our solutions far more user friendly. In SPInvoices, the user will build invoices, which is something that very few users perceive as an item in a list with a bunch of columns attached. They definitely don’t think of it as a table of invoices with a related table of invoice rows.

Instead, users think about invoices like they see them, usually on a paper of some kind or hopefully in an electronic document. Wouldn’t it be much better to give them an interface that closely resembles that which the users see and imagine when you tell them about invoices?

I’m not going to claim that SPInvoice in any way is a perfect example of a user interface, and I’m not even going to take credit for that interface. The interface, in fact, was built by someone else, but I thought it was a very nice way of implementing what might otherwise be a rather complex task.

Note: Chris Coyier made the interface. You can find the original HTML design here: http://css-tricks.com/html-invoice/

However, as an illustration of what I mean by having an interface tailored to the task the user performs, I think it serves its purpose. It should be clean, efficient, and close to what the user will associate with the task at hand.

I want to illustrate what I mean with a clean interface that allows the user to focus solely on the task at hand, and have as few distractions from anything as possible. I don’t want any menus, I don’t want any options that aren’t immediately visible, and I don’t want a complex learning curve.


Let me fill you in on how I converted the HTML invoice template to a SharePoint application.

This is an excerpt from the SPInvoice Explained issue of USP Journal.

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